Beer: Next 9+ days are all about craft beer

Showing the sacrifice that some will make to support a cause they care about, and support other people's livelihoods -- indeed, the very economy of this region -- many more people than needed volunteered to help out at signature events of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week.

Surely it didn't matter that the Release the Firkins Real Ale Fest at Highmark Stadium on Sat., April 20, and the Beer Barge cruises on the three rivers Fri., April 26, are among the hottest tickets that quickly sold out.

Surely it didn't matter that these selfless volunteers also will have a chance to soak up some of that good beer, music, food and other fun.

If you want some of that, you need not work, but organizers and participating breweries, distributors and bars and restaurants welcome you to come play at one of several hundred events happening across the city and region Friday, April 19, through Sunday, April 28.

A listing of tap takeovers, tastings, dinners, bike rides, charity benefits and more can be found at, online headquarters for the nonprofit Pittsburgh Craft Beer Alliance that is putting on this second-annual event.

At a news conference Tuesday at Penn Brewery where he brews beer, the group's board president Andrew Rich said that there are about the same number of events as last year, when the week accounted for roughly $2 million of economic activity. But, "a lot of the events are a lot more creative" and several afford chances to "get up close and personal with the brewers."

Several events will be serving all five of the "collaboration brews" that were made by teams manned by 27 area brewers. The brews are creatively conceived, such as the Fear of a Black Walnut smoked oatmeal stout, brewed with actual black walnuts at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in Homestead.

Brewer Brandon McCarthy will be at Rock Bottom's Thursday, April 25, Craft Beer Week party, where he plans to offer flights of all five brews or a pint of one of them for $5, with proceeds going to Animal Friends. But like other brewers, he'll be at other places' events, too.

"This is going to be like Vietnam for me," he quipped Tuesday. "I'm going to be behind a set of taps all week!"

He says Craft Beer Week isn't about bringing in customers and cash now. "I look at it as an investment in the beer knowledge and beer awareness of the average person in Pittsburgh."

Vecenie Distributing's Tony Knipling also will be busier than usual with events including a spring food-and-beer pairing at Rania's Catering in Mt. Lebanon on Tues., April 23. "It's a way to get the word out and kind of speak less to the choir and get into the church."

East End Brewing Co.'s Scott Smith, who has organized everything from a two-session beer-and-local wild foods pairing at Wild Purveyors in Lawrenceville on Tues., April 23, to his bicycle Keg Ride Sat., April 27, points out that while more people are drinking craft brews, they might not know about the great number and wide variety of local ones they could enjoy.

At his Growler Hours this Saturday, April 20, he'll offer all five collaboration brews, including the one made at his Larimer brewery: Pennsyl-tucky Uncommon, an extremely unusual mash-up of two obscure pre-Prohibition beers: Pennsylvania swankey (spiced with star anise) and Kentucky common ale.

There were two growlers, or jugs, of that at Tuesday's press conference, where there was no trouble to get tasting volunteers. It was, as I said, the best Pennsyl-tucky Uncommon I've ever had.

If you're looking for events, the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week online calendar still is a bit balky -- I find it works best to use the "agenda" view and click on the calendar icon and click on individual dates (the forward and back arrows don't work for me). But that software is something the group hopes to improve for next year, using money to be raised at the real ale festival and though sales of T-shirts (by South Side's Commonwealth Press), which are to be available at multiple venues (including CP's Thurs., April 25, PGHtee beery T-shirt show).

You also can check in with venues themselves to see what they're doing. The Bocktowns are holding events every day, including, at the Monaca location in Hopewell, a farm-to-fork beer dinner on Tues., April 23. Throughout the week there and at the Robinson Bocktown in North Fayette, they'll be serving from "the 17th tap" free samples of brews from local homebrewers (7 p.m. daily), and doing tastings with other brewers that aren't brewing commercially yet, such as Cellar Door Brewing of New Kensington (North Fayette, Thurs., April 25).

Hough's in Greenfield extends it a day on Sun., April 28, by attempting, with Flying Dog Brewery, to set the Guinness world record for largest beer tasting (tickets are $20 and include four pints).

The amount of beer pouring over the next nine-plus days is a bit staggering. One backhanded sign of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week's success is how ticked many people were when they couldn't get tickets to the Beer Barge.

But there are so many other events, and so many unticketed, smaller ones, that most people who care about beer should be able to find something that floats their boats.

Bob Batz Jr.: and 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.


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